Stuart's wife Sarah was admitted to hospital as she'd been feeling unwell for a few months and had a high heart rate. After an overnight stay, doctors found a mass on her heart and what they thought were lesions on her lungs. She had a scan but collapsed while medics were carrying out tests. This was the last time her family ever spoke to her.
Sarah was rushed into A&E and put in an induced coma on a life support machine while waiting for a transfer to King’s. Stuart, Sarah’s husband, arrived at King’s and met the neurosurgeon. Sarah needed emergency surgery. Time was pressing and Stuart agreed they could operate.
The operation went well and Sarah spent the next week in critical care at King’s. Doctors deemed her to have recovered enough to take her off ventilation and things were progressing well. Then, a few days later, Stuart noticed something was wrong.
Sarah had been responding to music and had a little bit of movement but out of nowhere her condition deteriorated and she became completely unresponsive. Stuart had to tell his two children, Tom and Katie, 17 and 15 years old at the time, that this might be it. Sarah had suffered a heart attack.
The following day Stuart discovered that Sarah had also had a massive stroke on the right side of her brain. The problem with Sarah’s heart was serious, she had a very rare form of cancer of the heart which had caused the heart attack and subsequent stroke.
Stuart spent the next few weeks consulting with the medical team at King’s. He remembers:
“I’ve never known a team like it – we had all the experts talking about her care; cardiovascular surgeons, neurosurgeons, critical care doctors, just about everybody.”
The decision was life and death. If they were to operate Sarah may die but if they didn’t, she might die. Sarah underwent heart surgery on 23 October but they still didn’t know if there was permanent brain damage from the stroke.
After the operation, Sarah started breathing on her own. Stuart says:
“It was like a whirlwind. I didn’t know where to be, how to be. Because there was nothing I could do.”
Sarah spent six months in hospital before passing away in March this year. Tom and Katie both had their birthdays during this time. Katie was studying for her GCSEs. Despite losing her Mum, she passed with flying colours.
Stuart was so grateful to the staff at King's he wanted to give something back.
"The staff at King’s truly are guardian angels. They don’t realise how amazing they are. We had a laugh and a joke with them, they were always looking out for me. To say thank you isn’t enough, it really isn’t. Thank you doesn’t even touch the surface of what they’ve done. And I know it’s their job, and they’d say it’s their job, but there’s a job and then there’s the staff at King’s. I feel richly rewarded to have had them in my life at a time like that. That’s why I wanted to do something to give back to the hospital. It’s that sense of when you go through something like this it’s very easy to be negative, feel the world owes you something. But I feel I owe the world. I’ve gone through something very traumatic and it would be remiss of me not to use that experience to try to help other people.”
Stuart didn’t have to work hard at raising money in Sarah’s memory. He asked for money instead of flowers at Sarah’s funeral and donated the money to King’s College Hospital Charity, raising over £7,000.